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On this day in 1991: South Africa back in the game

Historic return: Rice (centre) and his team at Eden Gardens

IT IS hard to overstate the significance of a one-day international played in Calcutta on this day 29 years ago, when South Africa were welcomed back into the cricketing fold.

Banished from international cricket since 1970 as a result of apartheid, the institutionalised racial segregation the government imposed on the country, the South African president FW de Klerk had begun to abandon the policy, with Nelson Mandela released from prison in 1990.

There had been a few rebel tours but, otherwise, a generation of players had no international cricket until 90,000 people attended a one-day international in Kolkata, or Calcutta is it was known. The magnitude of the occasion probably got to South Africa.

Kepler Wessels, who had played Test cricket for Australia in the 1980s, hit 50 as they made 177 for eight from their 50 overs.

Sachin Tendulkar led the way with 62 as India reached victory with ten overs to go, but even so a star was born as 24-year-old pace bowler Allan Donald took five for 29 on his international debut.

In defeat, it was one giant leap from which South Africa have not looked back. As their late, great skipper Clive Rice said: ‘I think I now know how Neil Armstrong must have felt when he walked on the moon.’